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Annette Funicello Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (20) | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 22 October 1942Utica, New York, USA
Date of Death 8 April 2013Bakersfield, California, USA  (complications from multiple sclerosis)
Birth NameAnnette Joanne Funicello
Nickname Annie
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Annette Joanne Funicello achieved teenage popularity starting in October, 1955 after she debuted as a Mouseketeer. Born on October 22, 1942 in Utica New York, the family had moved to California when she was still young. Walt Disney himself saw her performing the lead role in "Swan Lake" at her ballet school's year-end recital in Burbank and decided to have her audition along with two hundred other children. Annette became the last Mouseketeer of the twenty-four that was picked. By the run-through in 1958 of The Mickey Mouse Club (1955) in which she appeared in her own multi-segmented series entitled "Annette", she had become the most popular Mousketeer of them all and the only one kept under contract by Walt Disney after he canceled the show. Her popularity was such that by the late 50s, she was simply known as "Annette" -- America's sweetheart and the first "crush" for many a teenage baby boomer. Whenever anyone spoke of Annette, no last name was ever needed as everyone knew who you were talking about.

The popular teenager became synonymous with wholesome entertainment and was borrowed by Danny Thomas in 1959 to play Gina, a foreign exchange student, on Make Room for Daddy (1953) (aka "The Danny Thomas Show") and also that same year had a recurring role on the Disney TV series Zorro (1957). She made her well as other Disney film vehicles for several years, including The Shaggy Dog (1959), Babes in Toyland (1961) and The Monkey's Uncle (1965). During this time, the modest young singer had a couple of hit singles on the "Hot 100" charts, notably, "Tall Paul," and, as a result, traveled with Dick Clark's caravan on singing tours around the country. At one point she and teen idol Paul Anka became an item and he wrote both "Puppy Love" and "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" with her in mind. Their busy careers led to them parting ways.

During the early 1960s, American International Films wanted to use her in a fun-on-the-beach movie. They presented the idea to "Mr. Disney," as Annette always called him and with whom she was still under contract. To everyone's surprise, he gave his consent, with the only condition being that she make sure her navel was completely covered by a one piece bathing suit. The first movie, aptly titled Beach Party (1963) starred Robert Cummings and Dorothy Malone as the older generation who explore the younger set represented by Annette (as "Dee Dee") and her love interest Frankie Avalon (as "Frankie"). The "teenage" couple (actually she was 20 and he 23) proved so popular in this that they were whisked into a number of sand-and-surf romps (Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965)) that showcased the actors engaging in harmless fun while singing and dancing in the sand, and falling into silly slapstick.

After the surfing craze died out in 1965, Annette married Jack Gilardi, Paul Anka's agent, and became the mother of his three children -- Gina, Jack, Jr. and Jason. While appearing in a few other movies that did nothing to further her career, including Fireball 500 (1966), Thunder Alley (1967) and Head (1968), she appeared as a guest on shows and, most famously, became the spokesperson for Skippy Peanut Butter in a host of commercials. But she phased out her career in favor of family.

She and Gilardi divorced in 1983. Three years later she married Glen Holt, a race horse trainer/breeder. Within a year into her second marriage, Annette was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She hid her condition for five years before making a formal announcement (in 1992) for fear that her uncontrollable movements might be characterized by drunkenness. She became the most famous spokesperson for the disease. Annette's life was filmed as a TV movie with A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story (1995) co-starring her good friend, Shelley Fabares. Receiving a Hollywood "Walk of Fame" star in 1993, Annette was eventually wheelchair-ridden and went into complete seclusion.

Following a tragic March 2011 incident in which their Los Angeles house burnt to the ground and both Annette and husband Glen were hospitalized with smoke inhalation, the couple moved to Bakersfield, California. A little more than a year later, and over 25 years after she was diagnosed with this long and painful illness, Annette passed away on April 8, 2013 from complications at age 70. To this day her foundation continues to raise money to help find cures for this and other debilitating disorders, including "Lou Gehrig's disease".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bill Hafker thehuntzie@yahoo.com

Spouse (2)

Glen Holt (3 May 1986 - 8 April 2013) (her death)
Jack Gilardi (9 January 1965 - 21 March 1983) (divorced) (3 children)

Trade Mark (4)

Disney movies
Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer
Beach Party Movies
Her sweet smile.

Trivia (20)

Underwent brain surgery to slow down the tremors which result from her MS. Is recovering at home. [November 1999]
Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1987.
Her son, Jason Gilardi, is the drummer for the rock band "Caroline's Spine", which was once signed to the Disney-owned label Hollywood Records. He also appears as "Himself" in her biopic, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story (1995).
Daughter of Joe Funicello and Virginia Funicello, mother of Gina Portman, Jack Gilardi Jr. and Jason Gilardi, mother-in-law of John Portman.
When she made the various beach pictures for American International Pictures (AIP), she was still technically under contract to Disney, doing the AIP films on a loan-out basis, something of which Walt Disney always emphatically reminded her.
Her favorite TV series was Zorro (1957). For her birthday one year, Walt Disney (who knew she was a fan of the show) arranged to have her guest star on one episode.
When she was cast in her first beach movie, Walt Disney asked her to not wear a bikini and instead wear a one-piece swimsuit because she had an image to uphold. She agreed.
In 1977, Annette played the Blue Fairy in Disneylands "Main Street Electrical Parade"
Was the best friend of Shelley Fabares and Luree Holmes.
Paul Anka wrote the song "Puppy Love" about his romance with her.
When she began working for the Disney studio, she suggested to her employer that she change her Italian family name of Funicello to something more "American" as was often done in those days. Walt Disney vehemently argued against this idea, saying that her own name was actually an asset because it was so unique that no one who heard it would ever be able to forget it and convinced the young actress to retain it.
Good friends of fellow ex-mouseketeers, Doreen Tracey and Cheryl Holdridge, and Luree Holmes (from "Beach" movies).
Sister of Michael Funicello and Joey Funicello.
Her biggest hit single was "Tall Paul" (#7 US Pop 1959). She had later success with "Pineapple Princess" which peaked at #11 US Pop, in the summer of 1960.
Appeared in several TV commercials for Skippy Peanut butter in the 1970's and 1980's.
She spent her final years mostly confined to a wheelchair that was specially designed by her horse-trainer husband with a seat from a harness-racing sulky.
Her home suffered major damage and wheelchair-bound Annette & husband were hospitalized and treated for smoke inhalation. [March 2011]
Annette still lives in her first house a few miles from where she grew up. She has a collectable bear business, a line of perfume and she started the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders.
Died four days after Film Critic Roger Ebert. Both were unable to eat/drink and talk for their last years, they were also born in 1942 and died aged 70.

Personal Quotes (1)

The Disney studio wasn't like other studios. It was just like home - it always had a small-town, family atmosphere.

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